Govt may retain Sedition Act to complement new law, says minister

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KUALA LUMPUR: The government repeated in Parliament yesterday that it may retain the Sedition Act alongside a new law to curb seditious speech and expression that could threaten peace and security in the country.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said that the government was in the process of creating a new law to replace, or to complement an amended Sedition Act.

She was responding to a question by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on whether the government’s use of the law against Pakatan Rakyat leaders, activists and intellectuals, was in line with the prime minister’s commitment to make Malaysia more democratic.

“It is in the process of being relooked by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), because the government feels that we have a lot of feedback and so the engagement process is still going on with the relevant stakeholders,” Nancy said.

In answering Anwar’s supplementary question on why the act is still in force after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak promised to repeal it two years ago, Nancy said that this was because there was no other law to deal with seditious tendencies at present.

She said that Malaysia practised separation of powers where the executive did not get involved in the decision of the AGC on whom to prosecute. She said that while the country follows a system of parliamentary democracy, there has to be limits to the freedom of expression to ensure it does not cause public disorder.

Nancy said that this was also seen in mature democracies such as Britain, through the Race Relations Act, and in Australia, with the Racial Discrimination Act.

Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin then suggested that the AGC should also investigate all those who were calling for the Sedition Act to be abolished, saying that this showed they had “bad intentions”. However, Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PAS-Pokok Sena) pointed out that it was Najib who had initially said that the Sedition Act would be abolished. “So are you saying that the Prime Minister had bad intentions when he made that pledge?” Mahfuz asked. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 8, 2014.